to be a better thinker / Q & A

My cousin Vince started the email with “Carolina!”

He wanted to ask a few questions for a project he is doing at Baylor. Questions are kind of my jam, and for this guy I’d do about anything. He is a really amazing picture of what it looks like to battle in the trenches of the faith while serving the people around him. Every time we talk, I learn more about how I can better live out my faith.

Here is the little Q and A.

Why did you first start blogging?
I attended a conference called Faith and International Development at Calvin College while a junior at the rival liberal arts school Hope College in Holland, Michigan. At the conference, many of the things that had been bubbling up in my spirit collided and I needed an outlet. At the time (ahem, 2006), blogs were the newest and coolest way to give life to creative expression. Although I didn’t consider myself new or cool, the feeling of pushing publish was especially satisfying creatively and I’ve been doing it ever since.

What is the hardest thing about maintaining a blog?
Writing.

I never pretended that my blog was going to be about pictures or quotes or anything especially clever. Well, maybe I considered all of those for a hot second, but I never felt as much pleasure doing anything other than just writing.

I write because I love to write in a Eric Liddell kind of way – in the way that I feel God’s pleasure when I do it. But, writing is also the hardest thing about maintaining a blog. It means writing when you don’t feel like it and writing when you think you have nothing to say. It means starting a sentence when you think it sounds stupid. It means thinking of writing ideas when you are at the park and starting a blog while you are getting your hair cut or while you are riding the subway or while you are putting in your 9-5.

Writing is also the hardest because it is easy to be scared. I am afraid of what I write being less than good – that it will not be as interesting or as alive as it feels when it comes out of my fingertips. Sometimes that keeps me from writing. And if I don’t write, I don’t have a blog.

Would you say that blogging provides an outlet for you to express your thoughts and emotions? How?
Yes, I would say that exactly.

Sometimes, I think blogging pulls out of me what I didn’t know was inside. There are times when I stop myself in mid-conversation because I know the words will sound garbled until I’ve blogged them out first. It’s like therapy, I guess. But it’s also like exercise. It’s exercise for my creative spirit and my soul because I can stretch muscles in my imagination and in my intellect that don’t get used anywhere else in my life.

It’s like a playground where I my mind can run around, climb jungle gyms and swing off monkey bars. It can be (and is probably too often) an escape where I go to sort out the tensions in my heart.

Why do you continue to write your blog?
I suppose I continue to write my blog because it has become an inextricable part of my processing. The way I see the world and the way I engage with the world has a whole lot to do with the way I write the world. When I’ve thought something through and let it run out of my fingertips, I know it better… more fully. I know my weaknesses better and my fears and my vulnerabilities. I know my dreams and desires better. I know where I’ve let curiosity live and where I’ve let wonder roam, but I also know where I’ve hid light under a bushel and closed the doors on joy.

Maybe I don’t know any of these things better because I blog, but it sure feels like I do. And that’s why I keep blogging.

My mom called me from Iowa recently. She said, “Honey, I’m glad you finally blogged again.” I was kind of surprised to hear that she knew I was in desperate need of some blog time. “Mom, how’d you know?” Maybe in my cross country move or my new job and new relationship the need is more obvious than I realize. But, not everyone assumes a person needs to blog. “Well, I just know that sometimes you need to blog in order to think,” she told me.

Maybe that’s really why I write my blog – because it makes me a better thinker.

*If you want to know more (and feel better about how often/not often you are awkward in social situations) check out this post on my very gauche life.

gauche

for God’s glory means for our joy

I am still trying to process and understand the many lessons from the past week. Really, it’s not just the week busting at the seam with lessons… it’s the week of the mission trip pointing to everything God has been moving in my heart over several years. This week, one of the students from the mission trip literally gave the shoes off her feet to a woman whose sandals were broken in half. She walked out with plastic bags tied around her ankles. Later, she told me, “I mean, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal.”

I’m just sitting here, amazed by it all. God is transforming lives right in front of my face. I can’t shake off the joy! I just can’t! One thing I kept telling the students during the week was, “I promise that if you are serving the Lord with your whole heart, you will find yourself with an abundance of joy. I’m not promising this because I can give it to you… I’m promising because the Lord is faithful.”

I know I can’t tell them they will always be happy when they serve others, but I can say that a life of serving others will bring you close the Father’s heart… and there joy runs deeper than anything else. So, I’m trying to encourage this reflection of the trip because I don’t want the students to think it is only about the people or the memories (because given a different purpose, like vacation, they would have had a completely different experience with the people). I hope they will look back and remember how beautiful it is to come together in community with the goal of loving God and loving others… with an attitude of “a la orden” in the ways God has gifted us.

 

crazy group of fired up kids 🙂

 

 

With that, here is David’s reflection. It’s very long, but very worth it!

Very frequently, as imperfect human beings, we tend to believe that the world is a bubble formed by our own problems, fears, difficulties, and achievements. However, when one takes the time to let go of worries and decides to focus on others, one finds that there is much more in life. As a Christian, I had many times wondered, “What is my purpose here? What is God going to do with my life?” It was this 2011 mission trip that served as an eye-opening experience and answered these questions I kept in my mind. This mission trip has been used by God to revolutionize my world and give me a new perspective on life.

“Why did we decide to do this? Why did we decide to give up the daily comforts we have? Why did we decide to make sacrifices that people out there might consider out of place?” If I were to answer these questions with one word, that would be LOVE. It is because of love that today we can declare that we are saved. What a greater example of love than He who came down to the world and took the nature of a servant, making himself nothing to give the world a chance? As Christians, we need to resemble Christ in every way possible; it is our duty, then, to go out to the world to share His love and His wonderful message of salvation.

Christian life is a narrow road that few are able to find. Once you find it, walking in it demands everything you are to the point that you are willing to give up all you are for it. Even though at the moment it might not seem so, at the end you will have what is actually important- the salvation of your soul. Personally, before going on the mission trip, I decided to let God guide me and was willing to listen to his soft whispers. Like always, He was faithful and gave us the most spectacular and spiritually-rewarding week that we could have asked for.

God called us during this past week to do several demonstrations of His love. Personally, what impacted my life the most was the evangelism we did at Villa de San Francisco. I was amazed after seeing how little people know about God and how desperate they are to establish communication with their Daddy, the one who gave them life and created them in His image. When I stepped out of the van with my group, I thought to myself, “I don´t know how, but God will do amazing things through us today.” I made no mistake. Just starting, we met a group of about five teenagers who were clearly not very pleased with us coming to talk to them; after giving us the opportunity to talk to them, a couple of them seemed to be interested in learning more and started to debate with us about whether God was real or not. Even though the conversation wasn´t as fruitful as we would have hoped, we were sure that some of the guys were questioning themselves about how unlikely it would have been that Jesus was made-up by history, taking into account the fact that He is the only one that has turned the world upside down in such a manner.

After our first encounter, we felt even more motivated to find people to talk to about God. We found several more people and talked to them about God and about His purpose for their lives. It was really hard to conceive that most, if not all, of the individuals we approached that day had misconceptions about the requirements for getting to Heaven. Several were amazed to be told that all that was required was to truly believe and accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Savior; many said they were not ready to make this choice, because they did not want to change their way of life. A guy we talked to that day told me, “I might be rejecting the best invitation that has
ever been made to me in my life; however, I assure you that one day you will come back and I will then call you ‘brother.´” This phrase made me smile, even though I tried to make him realize that the next day could be too late for him. Like him, many others shared how much need they had of a God who helped them get through life but how unwilling they were to give up everything for that God.

The seed has been planted, and we are sure that God is going to do what He needs to. We were just humble instruments used powerfully by the Holy Spirit throughout the week to bring a smile to a number of orphans, do a couple of work projects, and spread the Gospel. The world is in need of people who are brave enough to stand up for what they believe and for what God expects from them. Are we willing to be part of that group of people? Are we going to answer? We need to be ready to listen to God and be quick to answer, “Here I am LORD. Send me!” There is much more work to be done, and what God has done this past week in our lives is just a great motivation to let go of ourselves and give out all we are in name of Jesus Christ, our wonderful and mighty Savior.

There are so many stones for this monument of blessing! I’m learning so much from these students as we build up a place of remembrance for our Lord!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!

making a mound o’ blessings

Remember in the Old Testament where the Israelites were constantly messing up and then God showed Himself merciful? It seems like quite often after a lesson was learned, the people built a monument – to remember how far they had fallen and how beautiful God’s great hand swooped down in rescue. I love that idea of monuments we would construct to remember the work God has accomplished in our lives.

For me, these stories are our monuments… a bunch of little stones piled up in mounds to make our monuments of blessings. Hopefully, we can look back at these stories and praise God for who He is and how He works through us when we make ourselves available to Him.

Check out what Daniel has to say:

So I am home now that the mission trip is over, and I am getting to understand just how great of an experience this mission trip was. It was great to get to know the PCA group from Dallas – they were each very special people. They helped make the whole journey special and worth the effort. I look back and I learned so much in so little time, and with the smallest things.

One thing that made me realize just how fortunate we are and how easy it is to help and give love was seeing the delight in the kids’ faces when we played games and gave them prizes. They were filled with joy and energy and each of them appreciated what we were doing, which feels great. Another moment engraved in my mind happened during the Tuesday night event. We had tons of pizza to give out for free, and some was left over. I remember when one of the guys gave a lady a full pizza, and the lady was SO thankful for that! She probably needed it to give food to her family. Moments like that are what make the trip worth it.

Another thing that I just thought of that I really liked is how both groups of students, PCA and ALP, bonded together as a family, and everyone looked out for each other and worried about each other. One specific example that I give is when we were swimming at the beach in Tela. We were all in the ocean and there were pretty big waves in it, and we were swimming over them and under them for fun. One of our girls was not the best swimmer around, so we always kept an eye on her to see how she was doing. Then a wave came and threw her around, and then when she got up another one hit her straight away. When we saw this all of us swam toward her and picked her up, and one of the guys carried her to the shore.

I guess that this is a reflection of your spiritual walk in life. You are in a vast ocean, and waves (trouble) often come and take you down, and they will keep you down if you are not careful enough. However, if you have friends that are near you and look out for each other, they will help you stand up and face those waves, not alone, but together. This is just a little idea that came to my mind as I wrote this, and it reminds me of Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” So now remember, you are not alone. Help is always found, especially when you are a Christian and trust in God to aid you. Be that helping hand to others who are struggling, and they will be there for you when you need them.

Beautiful words this morning! Here is a short photo montage of the trip that we will show in chapel. It is by NO means a full summary, but it’s a taste.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Interview with a Dreamer

We’re interviewing Kathleen today, of the Blog Cake Dreams, and one of Christina’s fave people in Des Moines. Welcome Kathleen!

What do you do?
I am a registered nurse at Blank Children’s Hospital. Right now I work in general pediatrics on the 7pm – 7am shift. Later this year, however, I’ll get certified to give chemotherapy and will work as a pediatric oncology nurse.

What are the coolest and weirdest things you’ve seen in your years in that career?
Oh gosh! There are so many cool things that happen at work. I am always amazed by families that pull together when their children are sick and get really involved in their children’s care. I see it a lot with kids who are in the hospital for a long time with car accidents. It’s neat to see a kid come in totally broken and then be able to walk out after all of the work everyone has done to make them better.

I have also seen a lot of weird things. One of the wierdest things was when my patient’s lips fell off…they got a little too dry and crusted together. When he opened his mouth the top lip stayed connected to the bottom one. Gross. I had no idea what to do. But with a lot of care, pain meds, and Vaseline, it got cleared up.


What are your hobbies outside of your career?
I have a lot of hobbies…usually I get really excited about something for a while and then move onto another thing. Currently I’m pretty into making cakes and learning French. Before that some of my hobbies were knitting, painting, playing guitar, and jewelry making. I still love to do all of those things too, but they’ve taken a backseat at the moment to cakes and French. Another one of my favorite things to do is photography! I love taking and looking at pictures.

I hear you date a genius/rock-star. Tell us about that.
I love it! Ryan and I have been friends for several years. We went to church retreats together in high school but were just acquaintances then. We’ve been closer friends for about 5 years, but when we were hanging out, I usually just talked with the girls and he talked with the guys. Last winter he was going to buy my favorite book and I got really excited about it. He thought it was pretty cool that I liked to read, so we started considering each other as dating possibilities.
As far as him being a genius/rock-start…it’s so true! I’ve never met anyone who was so nerdy yet so cool at the same time! Way to go Ryan!

How do you know the girls of Musings of foreign hearts?
I know the infamous Christina through Ruth Ann. I am in a girls’ Bible study that used to meet in Ames every week when Ruth Ann lived with Christina. She is probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and her stories always make me laugh! I have never met Caroline, but I do love reading about her adventures and hope to meet her if she ever comes to visit Christina.

Do you know what you are on the Meyers/ Briggs test? Does it hit the nail on the head? Explain.
I don’t know. Sad day. What do you think?

What is your favorite thing about fall or are you a fall-hater?
I must admit that I am half fall-lover and half fall-hater. I love the beautiful changing colors, the smell of outside, pumpkin patches, pies, etc. But I hate to think that winter is getting close. Some people just get cold if the temperature is below 80 degrees. I happen to be their leader.

Are you an obsessive blog-checker? What blogs do you check daily?

I have been addicted to blogging since 2004 (with about a 2 year lapse between late ’05- late ’07). On my blog there’s a list called “good people” of the blogs I faithfully check. Being nosy is one of my favorite things to do!

Tell us about your blog- Cake dreams!
Originally it was entitled “why dorms are bigger than vans” because I used to live in a van traveling the country conducting youth retreats. When I went to college and only lived with one girl in a dorm room compared to 9 other young adults in a van, I realized how much bigger of a space a dorm really was.

Cake dreams was the name I came up with after returning to the blogging world in 2007. I figured that I hadn’t lived in a dorm in 4 years so I should figure out a new title. At the time I was preparing for my roommate Kim’s wedding and she was going to make cupcakes for her wedding. So, at least weekly we would try a different cupcake recipe and practice decorating them. It was a lot of fun! So I decided that it was a good title for my blog and began pouring my little heart out once again.

I hear you are a hard-core Jesus- Lover. Tell us about how this affects your day-to-day life.
I do love Jesus! Being a Christian is the most important part of my life. I love knowing that God is with me every moment, helping me through hard times and celebrating with me during good times. At work or school or with friends I try to witness to His love. God is so good!

Ruth Ann on life, motherhood, and the joyful pursuit of Christ

Christina (my sister) and I feel so very blessed with the people God has placed in our lives. We truly believe our relationships reflect God’s heart for community and affirm our unique role in displaying His glory. We are finally starting this series, where we will interview some of the special people in our lives. Let us know if you have a story that needs to get out – we would love to interview you as well!! Our first interview is with Ruth Ann Pometto- we hope you are blessed by her story.

Christina and Caroline (C&C) : Give a little background – who are you?
Ruth Ann (RA): Hello friends! My name is Ruth Ann Pometto. I am a stay at home wife and mom to my amazing husband, Joe, and my adorable son, Roman. Joe and I have been married for two and half years and Roman just turned one in June. We love our little family!

I guess, to go back a bit, I grew up in Iowa. Most of my life, I was raised by a single mom (my parents separated when I was 8 and my dad was killed in a tractor/train collision when I was 9). I have one brother who is now married – and recently I became a proud aunt to a beautiful nephew, Carter!!! I graduated from ISU in 2005 with a degree in Elementary Education.

A few things I love: JESUS, Joe, Roman, my family and friends (I seriously couldn’t have picked more incredible people for God to put in my life!), cooking, sweatpants, good conversation, coffee, hugs, chocolate, people who are nice when they don’t have to be, babies, getting notes, soft blankets, flowers, starting sentences with “I feel like…”, laughing, trying new foods/restaurants, traveling, JESUS.

C&C: How did you happen to read our blog?
(RA):
Well, my freshman year of college, I lived in an apartment with three other girls. The summer before my sophomore year, one of the girls moved out, so we needed to find someone else to live with us. One of my roommates, Andrea, said she knew a girl from high school that needed somewhere to live, so Christina came over one day to look at the apartment, and a few weeks later, she moved in.

Let me tell you that Christina is one of the most fantastic people I have ever met in my life. Literally. She is the most amazing friend!! She is so thoughtful and always such an encouragement to me. We have been through a lot of stages in our lives together…what a blessing to have a friend who walks with you and prays for you all the way! Anyway, all of that just from a “random girl” moving into our apartment! God works in the little things.

Also, I just have to give you this quick story about the day that Christina moved into Apartment 123. So, we are helping her carry her things up to our 3rd floor apartment,(keep in mind I have known this girl about 10 minutes) and we sit down in the living room to take a break, when Christina decides now would be a good time to tell us the story about peeing her pants while riding in the car with Caroline. HILARIOUS. You need to have her tell the story in person sometime, because she is the best storyteller ever. Anyway, we all laughed hysterically, and that is where our long road of friendship began. Pee.

Needless to say, Christina is how I came to read this blog. I have met Caroline on a few occasions: her visiting our house, me visiting theirs. She is a sweetheart! I am praying for you while you are in Honduras, Caroline!

C&C: You recently became a wife and a mom. How is being a wife/mother different than you thought it would be when you were single?
RA: Big question! I love it. Having a family is such a journey. I always say it’s a good thing that God designed the family so that you get married (and adjust to living with and for someone else) before you have children (and adjust to giving even more of yourself to more people)!

I think that thing that surprised me the most (in a good way) was that I seriously didn’t know I had the capacity to love two people so much. If you think that you have really been committed to someone in prayer, or that you have loved someone so much you could really rejoice with them and mourn with them, or that you have been truly loyal to someone, just wait until you get married. Then double that when you have a child. I love being able to completely share my life with my husband – no insecurity involved. Two become one. And knowing that our love is rooted in Christ, I never have to doubt our relationship… not ever. Before we got married, we promised each other that we would never even say the word divorce. I have prayed for Roman more than I have prayed for anyone else in my life….and I have prayed for some people. What a blessing – what a beautiful way for God to share his love with us.

What surprised me the most (in a not-as-good, but realistic way) was that marriage is hard and parenting requires more selflessness than anything I have ever done. I know, what a revelation! But, it is. I heard a message one time that went something like this: Loving someone is easy when you feel in love. Like the day after your wedding, you wake up, and you can’t wait to do something wonderful for that person you are lying next to. But, true love, mature love, is when you wake up feeling like you don’t want to do anything for the person you’re lying next to. You don’t feel like doing something to show you love them, but you do it anyway.

There are those days. But, it’s good to know that Joe is doing that for me on some days and I am doing that for him on some days. It’s not always fun. There are hard decisions to be made, compromises that have to be worked out, there is give and take. There are times when we struggle in our walk with God. And when one person is struggling (and two became one, remember?) that is tough. It is our obligation to carry that other person if need be, to help them get back on their spiritual feet.

As for the parenting, I have never worked harder in my life. I have had some good jobs and some boring ones, and being a mom is, by far, the best, most exciting, most rewarding, most exhausting, most patience-requiring, job I have ever had! It takes 100% effort 24 hours a day. You don’t have the option to take a quick break when you are feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have the “go home to peace and quiet” option. But, when you hear a little voice call you mommy…priceless.

C&C: How has your relationship with God changed since having a baby?
RA: I think the best way to answer this question (since I have been so wordy on the other answers) is for you to go read my blog: www.rapometto.blogspot.com.

Having a child has radically changed my relationship with God – in almost every way. About every other post on my blog is a lesson I have learned from Roman, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find out that I have learned more about grace, patience, our selfishness, and God’s unconditional love, than I ever thought was possible.

C&C: Can you tell us a funny story about Roman?
RA: He is the most hilarious kid ever. I can’t wait until he can carry on a full conversation (he is also really smart, so it probably won’t be long!)

He is really funny about dogs. He talks about puppies all the time. My mom has a dog, Joe’s parents have a dog, my brother has a dog, the neighbors have a dog…you get the picture…he is exposed to them frequently. And, if you came to our house, you would see his stuffed dog, Murphy, who he loves. You would also hear him say “puppy” about every 15 minutes. Loves them. In theory.
When Roman gets close to a dog, he freaks out.

Example #1: The neighbors have a dog named Rocky. You can see him in his cage outside from our kitchen window. So, about once an hour, Roman says “Wah-kee?” and I lift him up so that he can look out the window, bark at Rocky, and talk about puppies. However, when we are drawing with sidewalk chalk on the walk in our back yard, and Rocky barks, Roman runs to me crying.

Example #2: We stayed the night at my brother and sister-in-law’s house a couple of months ago. Rom
an gets nervous around their 2 dogs, so they were in their kennels. He was crying because one of them barked, so I picked him up and was walking them into the kitchen to get him a drink, and as we walked by the dogs he says (through the sobs) “Hi puppies!!”. So funny. He just really loves them…but not in real life.

C&C: Are you an obsessive blog-checker? Which ones do you check daily?
RA: I can be pretty obsessive about the blogging. Joe makes fun of me about it all the time. You can find my favorites (I check them almost daily) on the left side of my blog – under “Blogs I Love”.

C&C: Are there any blogs that have especially inspired you lately?
RA: www.audreycaroline.blogspot.com

This blog is written by Angie Smith – her husband sings in the Christian band, Selah. They were pregnant with their fourth child when they found that the baby had several problems that would be fatal. They decided to carry her to term despite the doctors’ recommendations to terminate the pregnancy. They named her Audrey Caroline…she lived about two and a half hours and their blog is the beautiful story of her life and the life of their family.

I love it because Angie is so real about her suffering. She is honest about the struggles that she has giving it up to God. She is transparent about the pain that it is to lose a child. But, she is brave enough to offer it up to Christ…for HIS glory. It’s not about us. Nothing about our life is really about us. It’s all about bringing honor to the One who gives us everything we have ever had. It’s about knowing that God is enough. He is sufficient for us, despite our circumstances.

C&C: Thanks you, Ruth Ann, for being our first interviewee! We praise God for you and the life you are living for the Lord!
RA: Thanks so much for thinking my crazy little life worthy of your blog interview! So fun! I hope lots of other people do theirs soon!!

**If you have a story to share, let us know! Post a comment here and we’ll get in touch for our next interview!**

Someone took the bait!

I just wanted to get everyone excited… we’ve got an interviewee!! This week we will be interviewing Ruth Ann – I can’t wait to hear her story!

Hopefully she’ll be the first of many!